Have you ever played an SMS game, or purchased a ringtone on your mobile phone or even an app purchase and had the cost appear on your mobile bill instead of handing over your own payment details? That’s “Third Party Billing” and as of the end of this year, Telstra is cutting it completely.

More trouble than it’s worth as it turns out. Telstra’s own website describes these items clearly; “Third Party Purchases may appear on your bill when you purchase things like ringtones, apps or games. Telstra pays the third party provider on your behalf and then includes these charges on your bill.”

However, the number of complaints about “random charges” on people’s bills were something Telstra couldn’t overlook. Over time Telstra implemented new measures to improve the transparency of the service, forcing a “double opt in” process for Premium SMS content, but there are still customers wondering what the hell the costs are, and how and when they signed up.

From December 3rd this year, third party service providers will no longer be able to charge their subscriptions to Telstra customer bills, instead they will need to implement credit card or PayPal like services for payment if their services are to continue.

Telstra’s Director of Consumer Mobiles Kevin Teoh says “We know how frustrating it can be when unexpected third party charges appear on our customers’ mobile bills and we have been working for some time to fix the problem.

Last year we made a number of changes to improve the sign up process, but customers continue to tell us the experience is poor. We have taken the decision to withdraw support for new third-party content subscriptions.”

For those currently concerned about third-party content purchases on their Telstra bills, here are five tips from Telstra on managing those costs:

  1. Be aware of what you sign up to – always read the terms and conditions to understand any ongoing costs associated with an app download or content service.
  2. If your kids like to play with your smartphone or tablet use parental controls to monitor purchases and access to content.
  3. If you’re not sure about a charge on your bill, contact us on 132 200 and say ‘Third Party Purchases’ and we’ll help you.
  4. If you no longer wish to receive a subscription to the third-party content, you can cancel the subscription by texting “STOP” to the number outlined in the confirmation SMS.
  5. You have the option of barring these services from the mobile number(s) on your account. This will restrict future access. You can contact us to set this up. Call 132 200 and say ‘Third Party Purchases’.

Given the frustrations of users who get these charges having often unknowingly signed up for a premium service – this is a great move from Telstra.